Nature Spirituality from Pope Clement (98 CE)

Traditional picture of Pope Clement
Traditional picture of Pope Clement. Starting with the Christian persecutions under the Roman emperor Nero (ruled 54-64 CE) the Jesus followers in Italy went  underground and continued to hide through the paranoid reign of Domitian (ruled 81-96 CE). Domitian was assassinated and was succeeded by Nerva who was in turn quickly forced to abdicate by the Roman Praetorian Guard who favored Trajan who then became emperor in 98 CE.
As a consequence, the Roman church not affected by the rapidly developing apocalyptic trends in the Greek speaking east until after 100 CE. Their only contact had been with the apostles Peter, Paul, and their traveling companions. As a result their traditions retained more of the original approach of Jesus. This tradition is clearly shown in the only surviving letter from Bishop Clement, the third Bishop of Rome (second if Peter is not included). This letter, First Clement , was once expected to become part of the Biblical canon according to Eusebius but because it was not apocalyptic it was eventually dropped.

Pope Clement's Concern for the Corinthians

(July 9, 2022) Clement of Rome seems to have written his letter to the Corinthian church in nearby in Greece right after  Trajan became Emperor in 98 CE. Clement's purpose for writing was to calm a factional feud which had broken out within the Corinthian church based upon pride and envy, and which threatened to destroy it spiritually and socially. This was something which Jesus had sought to prevent and something which the Roman church thought it had some insights based upon its own trials. Clement was writing not as an authority (a Pope) but as a concerned brother.

Clement starts out by claiming that the recent persecutions of the Christian Church were due to pride and envy on the part of their opponents. 

He then goes on to mention the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome. This is the earliest and only passage we have which describes their ultimate fate. Clement also mentions that their martyrdoms occurred in his generation meaning that he likely met them or at least knew of them while he was in his 20’s before they were killed. In the following passage notice that Peter is mentioned first suggesting that he was the main source of information for their tradition. Unlike Paul, Peter knew Jesus personally.

First Clement, Chapter 5) But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labors, and when he had finally suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.


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Characteristics of spiritual awakening

Jesus Died in Order to Cause a Spiritual Awakening in Preparation for the End Times

(July 9, 2022) Clement urges the Corinthians to remember that Jesus died in order to open humanity's hearts towards his teachings. Following the teachings of Jesus is what will save people from the death and destruction of the end times. The purpose of this early Christianity is still mostly to do the will of God (align with the Divine Powers) although seeking the reward of salivation is also there:

(First Clement, Chapter 36) By Him (Jesus) are the eyes of our hearts opened. By Him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms up anew towards His marvelous light. By Him the Lord has willed that we should taste of immortal knowledge … And again He says to Him, "Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool." But who are His enemies? All the wicked, and those who set themselves to oppose the will of God.

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The blood of Jesus was God's gift for inducing a spiritual awakening so people would repentant of their old self-centered ways and instead align with the will of God as taught by Jesus. This alignment is what brings salvation for the end times.

(First Clement, Chapter 7) These things, beloved, we write to you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling in the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. So let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world.

Clement's idea of salvation as a a Jesus induced spiritual awakening is different from Paul’s idea about salvation. For Paul, salvation comes about from gaining the emotional confidence that Jesus arose from the dead. Only by gaining that sort confidence could a person open up to the divine powers and gain spiritual powers. For Clement, simply become aware of the divine powers and aligning with them (doing the will of God) is what saved.

While waiting for the apocalyptic return of Jesus Clement counsels everyone to keep on doing the will of God (aligning with the divine powers)

(First Clement, Chapter 33) What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work.
(First Clement, Chapter 35) … Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those who wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts … earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition.
heart filled with love has no room for hate

Promoting Emotional Strength and the Nature Virtue of Connection (Love) 

(July 9, 2022) Clement states that everyone needed to focus on love as the main commandment and teaching of Jesus. Only through love are people made right with God and able to achieve salvation. No dogmatic belief was required. Also notice that Clement lifts some thoughts from Paul’s 13th love chapter in his letter to the Corinthians:

(First Clement, Chapter 49) Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love bears all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.

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Love is important because of magical practice of emotional propagation. Clement provides a warning to be careful about how one does emotional magic by stating that people should not connect to the Divine in ways not yet taught to them because doing so is dangerous and may even result in death. This is a statement of the Law of Attraction/Return

(First Clement, Chapter 41) Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. … Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. You see, brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed.

Clement, in his closing prayer declares the followers of Jesus to be a peculiar people and Jesus to be their high priest and protector. In that deity-like role Jesus provides people with the spiritual power of emotional strength which is needed to stay focused on the virtues of love and balance:

(First Clement, Chapter 58) May God, who sees all things, and who is the Ruler of all spirits and the Lord of all flesh -- who chose our Lord Jesus Christ and us through Him to be a peculiar people -- grant to every soul that calls upon His glorious and holy Name, faith, fear (respect), peace, patience, long-suffering, self-control, purity, and sobriety, to the well-pleasing of His Name, through our High Priest and Protector, Jesus Christ, by whom be to Him glory, and majesty, and power, and honor, both now and for evermore. Amen.


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principles of nature

Promoting the Nature Virtue of Harmony (Balance)

(July 9, 2022) While love was one component of the will of God Clement believed harmony was another component because harmony is an underlying principle of God's creation (nature). This is the last time nature was held up as an authority in Christianity.

(First Clement, Chapter 20) The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no way hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed.

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Then Clement goes to far and pushes a nature analogy as evidence  to "prove" that resurrection of the dead will happen at the end times. A superficial analogy is not a deep underlying organizational principle. For Clement, future resurrections will happen because that is what happens to the sun every morning and that is what happens with seeds:

(First Clement, Chapter 24) Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day [again] departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold the fruits [of the earth], how the sowing of grain takes place. The sower goes forth, and casts it into the ground; and the seed being thus scattered, though dry and naked when it fell upon the earth, is gradually dissolved. Then out of its dissolution the mighty power of the providence of the Lord raises it up again, and from one seed many arise and bring forth fruit.


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